WHITE PLAINS, N.Y., April 23, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Babies in the United States had a better chance of surviving infancy in 2011 than ever before. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the US infant mortality rate fell in 2011 to 6.05 infant deaths for every 1,000 live births, an all-time low.
The infant mortality rate declined in part because fewer babies died due to prematurity and low birthweight.
"Preventing premature birth saves lives," said Dr. Jennifer L. Howse, president of the March of Dimes. "Thousands of babies each year do not live to see their first birthday because they were born too soon. No parent should ever have to experience the pain of losing a child from prematurity, or from any other cause."
Infant mortality posted an impressive 12 percent drop between 2005 and 2011 after years of stagnancy, according the April 17 NCHS report titled Recent Declines in Infant Mortality in the United States, 2005–2011. Health officials heralded the across-the-board improvement for all races and ethnicities, for the most common causes of death and in states that had some of the highest infant mortality rates.
The earlier a baby is born, the greater the risk of death, according to NCHS statistics. But Dr. Howse says it's important to note that even babies born just a few weeks early -- between 34 and 36 weeks of pregnancy -- have a death rate three times as high as babies born at full term.
Research published in Obstetrics & Gynecology in June 2011 found that, although the overall risk of death for full-term babies is small, it more than doubles for infants born at 37 weeks of pregnancy, when compared to babies born at 40 weeks, for all races and ethnicities.
Last week's NCHS report found that babies born to non-Hispanic black women showed the most improvement in mortality rates, 16 percent between 2005 and 2011. There was a 12 percent improvement for babies born to non-Hispanic white women and a 9 percent improvement for Hispanics. Also, the mortality rates declined in four of the five leading causes of infant death – birth defects, preterm birth and low birthweight, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, and maternal complications.
Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina and the District of Columbia, which had years of persistently high infant mortality rates, reported declines of 20 percent or more in their infant mortality rates from 2005 through 2010, the most recent year state-specific rates were available.
In 2013, the March of Dimes is celebrating its 75th anniversary and its ongoing work to help all babies get a healthy start in life. About 4 million babies are born in the United States each year, and the March of Dimes has helped each and every one through research, education, vaccines, and breakthroughs.
The March of Dimes is the leading nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health. With chapters nationwide and its premier event, March for Babies, the March of Dimes works to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality. For the latest resources and information, visit marchofdimes.com or nacersano.org. Find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.